Brand You

Do you know why you are selling Real estate? what inspires you to succeed? peter hutton, Real estate coach, author and personal Branding expert says that even if you are one of ‘the davids’ of real estate it is possible to defeat ‘the goliaths’. But you do need to have a clear understanding of your motivations, and the rest will follow.

When I started in real estate I had a pretty big reason to succeed. It was 1994. I was flat broke. And let me tell you, I felt this weighty responsibility to provide for my pregnant wife and two-year-old daughter. They were relying on me.

We were behind with our rent. One night all we had for dinner to share among the three of us were two potatoes, a cup of peas and some carrots. Karen had also just experienced a sudden and unexpected family tragedy with the loss of her father. That was a tough time for her, made worse by my lack of income.

Leading up to this pretty uncomfortable situation we found ourselves in, I had recently left a long and successful career in the wool industry to venture out into my own business. We had sold our home and invested everything we had into a national franchise group, which went belly up not long after we joined them.

There were no wage or commission advances back then for real estate sales people. I remember asking my boss for a small wage to tide me over while I got started in my new career. His un-empathetic response was, “I suggest you put yourself on the dole for a couple of months.”

“Is he kidding?” I thought. “I can’t go on the dole, I’m better than that”. But I had to swallow my pride; I had a family to feed, so I found myself in a dole queue at a Centrelink office.

On top of all this, the other sales people that I was working with did their very best to knock the wind out my sails by telling me how tough it was to be an agent. They tried to convince me that I’d be better off getting a paid office job somewhere. Others painted a bleaker picture; with an air of authority they told me it would take me a couple of months to sell my first property and at least three months before I’d get my first exclusive listing. I was told not to expect much income in my first year. And judging by the success of my team mates, it was apparent to me that experience and longevity in real estate weren’t any guarantee that I’d earn the kind of income I needed and wanted.

My hope then was in training. I realised if I got shown ‘how’ to do it, ‘how’ to be a successful agent, I’d be able to succeed. Well, that was a bit of a letdown. My training, if you could call it that, comprised: a geography lesson of the office layout; a brief rundown on kitchen sink etiquette;  an overview of piloting the photocopier (umm, I had used one of those before); and a sermon about the importance of knowing every single listing, all 150 of them (mostly they were unsaleable open listings). I was told not to talk to buyers until I knew these properties like the back of my hand. From my calculations, at that rate it was going to take me a couple of months before I’d be ready to show a buyer one of these properties. The truth was, I couldn’t wait that long. My family couldn’t wait that long. I was desperate.

Now here’s the funny thing about desperation. It can go two ways. The way it usually goes is, and this may sound familiar, ‘desperate people do desperate things’. Yeah, I was desperate – but not stupid. In my case, love for my pregnant wife and my daughter kept me from making the kind of mistakes most desperate people make. I was driven by what I call a ‘Big Why’, and that was to be a good provider for my family.

Long story short, I sold my first property in my first week of real estate. Not only did I sell it, I brought the listing to the office. And because it was development stock, the developer paid a double commission, so it was more like selling two listings in my first week.

The pressure was still on. I had a long way to go. Within nine months I had won the quarterly awards for the six offices in this boutique agency group. I was also in the number two spot for the entire group for the year in total. In those nine months I had established a groundswell for my own personal brand within the agency I worked for.

The reason I’m sharing my story is to shed some light on what actually drives a personal brand.

There’s a pretty big focus these days on marketing tactics. I call it ‘the how’ of real estate. I’m talking about the processes and the actions an agent needs to take to have any chance of succeeding in our super-competitive industry.

That’s all very well. But learning ‘the how’ is really just surface stuff. It’s not in fact what actually determines the cut through of your personal brand in your market place. In my story, it wasn’t the extent of my real estate sales knowledge and experience that gave me the edge. Truth is, I was a novice.

So it wasn’t ‘the how’ that I had going for me. It was the reason ‘why’ success was so damned crucial for me.

The lesson is, the degree of motivation we have has a potent effect on our actions and our end results.

Our motivation is like the engine in a car, and our reason to do something, ‘the why’, is the fuel for this engine. The greater the ‘why’, the stronger the motivation we have. That’s why I call it the ‘Big Why’.

When you establish your ‘Big Why’, you tap into a fuel source that is so incredibly motivating it drives you to take the kind of actions few are willing to take. Your ‘Big Why’ is a bit like having your own personal coach cheering you on. Always there, always in your ear, always saying “Do it now!”

But there’s more to it than that.

Later in my career, I discovered an equally, if not more, profound benefit of having a ‘Big Why’. When I opened my boutique independent agency in 2001, I reflected on my career and recognised how beneficial it was to have had such a motivating ‘Big Why’ when I first started out.

Now things were different for me. We weren’t under the same extreme financial pressure as we were in 1994. Thank God for that! But there was still some pressure; it just wasn’t as potent as before.

Pressure now came in the form of opening an office with ‘future running costs’ locked in by way of leases, etc. It also came from starting from scratch again. That is, I was new to New Farm and Fortitude Valley. We lived miles away. No one knew me. And of course we all know, without listings, there are no sales.

After a month or two it became increasingly obvious that having a nice office with nice signage meant diddly squat. There wasn’t anybody knocking on our door to list their home. The phones weren’t ringing. My office felt like a morgue.

For six tough months where we struggled to get listings, it was as though my agency and I were invisible to prospective sellers. I realised something had to change. Quickly!!

You know what it’s like when you build something; it’s like your baby, it’s perfect and there’s a reluctance to see that your little creation may have a flaw or two. Well, my little creation, my agency (and really myself also) had a flaw or two all right.

I had no choice; it was sink or swim time again.

So I went back to the drawing board. I got really honest with myself. And I asked myself this little question. This question changed everything. I asked myself, ‘Why?’

  • Why am I doing this?
  • Why do I want this?
  • Why would anyone want to do business with me?

You see, my past experience had shown me that behind every ‘how’ and behind every ‘what’ there’s a ‘why’. You identify your ‘why’ and you’ll automatically know the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. It’s that simple. The ‘why’ directs your actions. It fuels your actions and as I said earlier, the bigger the why, the bigger the actions you take.

So I reinvented myself. I reinvented my agency. And I reinvented how I prospected. All based on my new ‘Big Why’. I reinvented everything by getting super clear on ‘why’ first.

What happened next was amazing. My agency started to attract sellers. My agency started to attract buyers. My agency even attracted investors wanting a part of the action. It was like a gigantic neon sign had been turned on and all of a sudden everyone knew we existed.

Over the following years I perfected this art of knowing my ‘Big Why’. And I’ve identified five ways to discover it. I’ll share that with you in a moment. First you need to understand that your personal brand, the brand called you, is woven by your ‘Big Why’.

Without a ‘Big Why’, it’s like a car without petrol: you ain’t going anywhere.

Fact is, I believe 95 per cent of agents aren’t clear about their ‘Big Why’. Sure they may have a ‘why’ which might look like a holiday overseas each year, pay off the mortgage, buy a nice car; but, truth be told, these things for many agents are no more than a carrot on a stick, still held out by sales managers and principals as the key to motivation.

Well, that’s just rubbish. If that was true every agent in Australia would be nailing it because they have a pretty good carrot already: commission. But commission alone doesn’t do it for most agents. It’s not a big enough ‘why’. It’s not the kind of ‘why’ that you’d walk over hot coals to get. Right?

Here’s the other thing about not having a ‘Big Why’: you become susceptible to others’ opinions and views on ‘how’ to be a success. This is what’s happening out there with many agents. They see someone succeeding and try to copy or mimic them in some way. Your ‘Big Why’ helps you to be the authentic you. You can’t be authentic unless you know ‘why’ you do what you do.

The warning bells are ringing right now. Consumers in general don’t hold agents in high regard. Trust is at an all-time low. Consumers are jaded. They’re over the BS. They’re over the hidden agendas. They want to work with authentic, real people. Not some clone.

Here’s how not to be another clone: Your personal brand allows you to differentiate yourself by consistently articulating and leveraging your unique ‘Big Why’.

  1. Intrinsic Motivation: this is basically the opposite of ‘carrot and stick’ motivation or ‘external motivation’. Intrinsic motivation is about doing something, like an activity, for its own sake. The activity is its own reward. The key here is to find joy in doing the task. One way is to set goals around learning and getting better at various aspects of your job. Set challenges around activity. When you discover your unique intrinsic motivation you’ll notice an extra drive and energy to do the job.
  2. Mission and vision: we all know that great brands and great businesses have a clear mission and vision. The same goes for personal brands. Your ‘Big Why’ can simply be your mission. Again, the trick here is making sure your mission and vision are ‘intrinsically motivated’. If you have a mission which is about getting you something else, you may want to reconsider that. Your mission must stand on its own. You must want it for itself alone and not for what achieving the mission will give you. Here are some tips:
    • Write a short, sharp personal mission statement – one you are willing to share
    • Your mission should be an exact match of your opportunities, competencies and commitment
    • Your mission also guides you in what NOT to do.
  3. Passion: Oprah rightfully said this about passion: “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Passion does excite us. It keeps us focused. It helps us to wake up on a cold morning with a sense of excitement and optimism that’s infectious. Ask yourself:
    • What does your heart want?
    • What did you like to do when you were a child?
    • Brainstorm a list – ‘What’s my passion?’
    • What are you secretly afraid of doing but want to do?
    • What comes easy to you?
  4. Personal Resonance: OK, this a biggy. Your personal resonance is indeed the power of identification and belonging, two massive motivators for humans. When you are truly authentic, your personal resonance is like a candle to a moth. People are drawn to like-minded people; like attracts like. So this aspect of your ‘Big Why’ is about finding your personal resonance. How you do that is by getting clear on your cause, your values, your beliefs and your purpose in life.
  5. Nemesis:All great brands have an opposite. Superman has Lex Luthor, the Queensland Maroons have the NSW Blues in the State of Origin, Labour politicians have the Liberals, Mac has PC and so on. The nemesis serves to identify what you don’t want to be, it helps you crystallise what you do want to be and it helps consumers identify you. It helps to differentiate you. Your ‘Big Why’ could simply be that you want to be opposite to another personal brand or corporate brand. Don’t underestimate this one; this alone has proven to create cult brands such as Harley-Davidson and Apple.
    Your ‘Big Why’, as I hope you can now see, is the thing that is the foundation to your personal brand. It fuels your success.
    The great thing about your ‘Big Why’ is no one can tell you yours. You have to discover it. You get to make it up. This is your way of bringing the real, authentic you into the game of real estate. And as I say, authentic agents win.

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Peter Hutton

Peter Hutton is the Director and CEO of Hutton & Hutton Real Estate. Peter brings over 25 years real estate experience as well as a wealth of expertise to the industry through his book, ‘The Love Price’.